Monitoring is not tackling! Environmental groups criticise lack of Commission progress to reduce shipping emissions

Environmental groups have criticised a long-awaited Commission announcement on greenhouse gases from shipping. A coalition of NGOs headed by T&E has welcomed forthcoming measures to monitor emissions from maritime transport, but says they should not mask the fact that the EU is taking no action to cut such emissions, despite the presence of numerous cost-effective options for doing so.

For almost a decade, the EU has threatened to take action alone to reduce climate-changing gases from ships, if no global agreement can be reached through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). However, hopes of EU action have faded following the announcement by the EU commissioners on transport and climate, Siim Kallas and Connie Hedegaard, that the EU will monitor, verify and report shipping emissions, but without any measure that would lead to those emissions being reduced.

T&E and the NGO Seas at Risk said in a statement that monitoring and reporting of emissions are ‘an important prerequisite to further action’ and will ‘ensure that data on ship efficiency is shared transparently, as it enables commercial operators who wish to choose the most efficient ships to be better informed’.

But the NGOs say the Commission has failed to take even the least controversial action to reduce emissions at sea. T&E shipping manager Bill Hemmings said: ‘The fact that progress within the IMO on reducing greenhouse gases has stalled should not stop the EU from putting forward its own measures; in fact it should encourage Europe to take the initiative. Studies show there is enormous potential to reduce the environmental impacts of shipping without any cost. What the Commission should do is to propose an EU market-based measure as soon as possible, so this potential can be realised.’

In recent months, T&E has been keen to stress the potential for improving efficiency, reducing costs and cutting emissions simply by encouraging ships to travel at slower speeds. Ship speeds have come down since the current economic downturn began, providing real-life evidence of how much can be achieved with slower steaming, but environmental groups fear ships will speed up again once the global economy begins to recover.

Shipping is responsible for over 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure predicted to double by 2020 if no action is taken to slow down current increases.